It’s almost that time of year —The Masters. The most special week in golf. People always ask: why is The Masters so special? The Masters is the only international sporting event that is completely untouched by the commercial forces that make people say, “yeah it was fun, but it’s not like it used to be.”
From the setting in Augusta, Georgia, to the reverence for the sport of golf and its traditions, to the event’s ban on marketing on the green: the Masters is a stand-alone example of an event whose priorities remain steadfast and wholesome.
Because the Masters is America’s most important annual golf tournament many people compare the Masters to the Super Bowl. But this comparison couldn’t be further from the truth. For one thing, more than half of the folks in the stands the Super Bowl are not even fans of the final teams: they are there for the crowds, the halftime concert, the celebrity sightings, the media hype, and the potential selfies. Consider for a moment that one of the most talked about aspects of the Super Bowl each year is the commercials. Now consider that, at the Masters, absolutely no sponsor advertisements are allowed on the course. The tone is so different between these two events that there is no comparison to be had.
The Masters takes place in Augusta, Georgia, the state’s second most populous city behind Atlanta. Though the city offers a worthwhile portion of historic architecture and scenic views in its downtown area, Augusta also has many of the features of your typical American sprawl. Especially on its outskirts, you can expect to see lots of fast food chains and strip malls along the highways. The drive out to the Augusta National Golf Club isn’t a scenic one: as you approach the golf course on Washington Road, prepare to be bombarded with billboards and advertisements for Krispy Kreme Donuts, Outback Steakhouse, Walgreens, Hooters, Olive Garden, and Waffle House, among others. Then, you turn into the Augusta National parking area and immediately leave it all behind.
When you step foot on Augusta National, all the stresses of our fast-paced modern world melt away. There is not an advertisement in sight. Everything is immaculate. The grass is trimmed so perfectly that it looks more like Astroturf. Every fallen leaf is raked up. Every fallen pine needle is swept away.
The grounds of the golf course were a nursery before club founder, Bobby Jones, built the course in the 1930s. This horticultural legacy is still visible on the course. Many of the trees, which are huge and magnificent, predate the Civil War. A great game of golf is determined as much by athletic talent as it is by great gardening. The Masters does both of things better than anywhere else.
The other major golf tournaments all rotate cities and venues every year. This is also true of countless other big sporting events. The Masters, however, is the only major golf tournament that is played on the same course every year, and always during the first full week of April. Holding the tournament in the same place every year grounds the event in the sport itself. Rising stars and unknown hopefuls compete on the very same pitch that hundreds of legends before them did. And as the first major tournament of the year, there is a ceremonial importance to holding it in the same place. The Masters represents the first step of each golfer’s dream of winning the Grand Slam. Only the winner of the Masters has that opportunity going forward.
Augusta National Country Club has done an amazing job of lovingly maintaining their many traditions through the years. Their insistence on doing things by the book adds an element of nostalgia to the tournament that is lacking in other sports. Even as the game of golf has progressed with new technology and new stars, the Masters never loses sight of the history and traditions of the sport.
- On Thursday morning, the tournament is opened with the first tee shot being taken by one of the greats of the game. Perhaps more than any other tradition, this one exemplifies how Augusta National respects and honors the history of this great game.
- Wednesday of Masters week is my favorite day of the year. Most players participate in the nine-hole Par-3 contest on Wednesday afternoon. The holes are relatively short, between 160 and 190 yards, allowing you to get closer to the action (and the players) than during regular competition. The atmosphere is light-hearted and festive, with many players using their spouses or children as caddies. Interestingly, no player has ever won both the Par-3 Tournament and the Masters in the same year, which has led to many players purposely losing the Par-3.
- On Tuesday of Masters week, all of the previous winners gather for a seated dinner in the Clubhouse. The previous winner is responsible for choosing the menu, and they often select dishes representative of their homeland.
- Arguably the most coveted prize in all of sports is a sport coat from Augusta National Golf Club. Each year the Green Jacket is presented to the winner of the tournament by the previous year’s winner. Players are allowed to keep their jacket for one year, then must return them to the Club and can then only wear it on the grounds. Gestures like these are brimming with nostalgia, and a huge part of the reason why the Masters are so unique.
- Is there any other event in all of sports where some of the most exciting action is watching the participants just practice? The first three days of the Masters are filled with practice rounds, and perhaps the most interesting place to spend your day is by hole Number 16. This par-3 hole has a large pond between the tee box and the green. After taking a normal practice shot, players are encouraged by the crowd to attempt to skip a ball across the water and onto the green.
- The Masters, like all major golf tournaments, is limited to five sponsors every year. And though these sponsors each pay more than six million dollars, they are not allowed to have any branding on the course. No t-shirts, no koozies, no banners, no blimps – nothing on the green. Even the athletes keep logos on their clothing and gear to a subtle minimum.
- The Club wants the athletes to be able to feel relaxed while at the tournament, as if they were playing at their own home club. Fans, therefore, are not allowed to approach the golfers for autographs on game day.
- Don’t even think about bringing your cell phone. Security will confiscate your devices before you can even extend your selfie stick. As anxiety-inducing as the thought of watching an entire round of golf without your phone may be, this rule actually makes the game so much better. Everyone is actually paying attention.
So get ready for the best week in golf, in our opinion. The week of April 8. Stop in and watch some the coverage with us, because you know we will have it on in the shop.